Genres: Adult fiction, contemporary.
One miscarriage too many spelled the end of Max and Zoe Baxter’s marriage. Zoe finds healing relief in music therapy and the friendship, then romantic love with Vanessa, her counselor. After Zoe and Vanessa, now married, decide to have a baby, they realize that they must join battle with Max, who objects on both religious and financial grounds.
Sing You Home “explores what it means to be gay in today’s world, and how reproductive science has outstripped the legal system”. If you’ve read Jodi Picoult’s other novels, you’ll already be familiar with the layout: action, court case, twist, end, but what I admired about this book was that there is a lengthy, more ordinary plotline before the inevitable court case. This enabled the characters to be properly introduced and describes in detail the demise of Zoe and Max’s relationship, which lead to Zoe and Vanessa’s relationship, as opposed to jumping straight in with the controversy and the drama. It would have been so easy to only focus on the controversy, which would have diminished the importance and relevance of this novel. However, this did mean that the ending was very rushed, although I still enjoyed the book overall.
I had first wondered how Picoult, as straight, married female, was able to empathise with a lesbian couple but then I realised that it was, of course, simple: the novel deals with humanity and basic human rights. You do not have to be gay to support gay rights, you just have to be human. It was the first book I have read that has a gay main character and so I found it extremely interesting and enlightening.
I recognise that Picoult is often seen as “mainstream” as opposed to “literary” and thus not as influential, serious or important, but I honestly believe that more novels like this are needed in commercial fiction. Homophobia still exists (not just stemming from religion like the discrimination presented in this book) and I think books like this are a great way to challenge it. One thing in particular that I enjoyed about this book was that it doesn’t resort to gay stereotypes such as on TV shows such as Will & Grace (as much as I loved the show). However, people may be angered and argue that the book uses religious stereotypes but I don’t think that was Picoult’s intention. I think she just wanted to highlight the ridiculous yet potent arguments presented by certain religious groups rather than saying religion is intrinsically homophobic.
I also loved the idea of the music component (each chapter coincides with a song download). Music and books are my two passions so what could be better than combining them both? But, honestly, I was disappointed and wasn’t a fan of Ellen Wilber’s voice so I only listened to two of the songs. Even so, I think it’s a fantastic idea that should be explored by other authors.
I can’t say that Sing You Home is my favourite Jodi Picoult book (Nineteen Minutes, hands down) but it is definitely one of the most memorable ones so far.
My two favourites quotes from the book are:
“The music we listen to may not define who we are. But it’s a damn good start.”
“I remember my mother telling me that, when she was a little girl in Catholic school, the nuns used to hit her left hand every time she wrote with it. Nowadays, if a teacher did that, she’d probably be arrested for child abuse. The optimist in me wants to believe sexuality will eventually become like handwriting: there’s no right way or wrong way to do it. We’re all just wired differently.
It’s also worth nothing that, when you meet someone, you never bother to ask if he’s right- or left- handed.
After all: Does it really matter to anyone other than the person holding the pen?”
Thank you Hodder for sending me this book to review!